England Are Still Failing on the International Stage But at Least It's a Different Way of Failing

22/06/2016 16:30 | Updated 22 June 2016

England "can't do much more" to win. That was the view of Roy Hodgson after a 0-0 draw with Slovakia ensured the Three Lions finished with their lowest points tally in the European Championship group stage since 2000 when they were eliminated at this stage.

England managed to book a place in the last 16 anyway, despite just one win from three games in a group that they should have walked, seeing Wales top the standings after beating both of the teams that Hodgson's men couldn't.

They could yet go far, but as things stand it is still relative failure from the under-performing English at a major tournament, again. However, this is different failure and that in itself is actually a silver lining of sorts - literally just because it isn't the same as countless times before.

This is not the turgid awfulness that had been developing for years and finally swallowed England whole at the last World Cup. This is not the technical or tactical inferiority demonstrated four years ago, or the underachievement of a Golden Generation. This is not even the excuse of an injury to a key player or a freak goal.

No. This England are actually good, except that they're not. It's a strange thing to have to wrap your head around and try and conceptualise.

Roy Hodgson was right after the Slovakia game when he said that England "dominated from start to finish." He was also correct with his assessment that it has been a case of "attack versus defence in all three games".

England were the better team against Russia, Wales and Slovakia. How often has that been the case over the last 20 years? The answer is probably never.

We've all criticised England for all manner of things at tournaments in the past. Too slow, too arrogant, too lazy, too tired. None of those are applicable this time and not a single person has asked the question about the Premier League and a winter break, as has come to be expected when England flatter to deceive during a summer competition.

In France, England have played at good tempo, have passed well and created plenty of chances. None of the things we're used to seeing from the Three Lions on this stage.

Rather, it has solely been ineptitude directly in front of goal that has been holding England back. A clinical team could have hammered Russia by three or four goals - like Wales did. The English defence had precious little to do in that game except defend a set-piece at the death, which resulted in the equaliser.

Against Wales, England battered their local rivals. Gareth Bale's free-kick, neatly palmed into the corner of the goal by Joe Hart, was the only real foray into attacking waters for the Welsh. Slovakia didn't pressure England either, with Hart's most worrying moment coming courtesy of Chris Smalling making a mess of chesting the ball down in the penalty area.

At the other end, Adam Lallana has been guilty two clear chances in the three games, Raheem Sterling's final ball was nothing short of awful when he was in the team, Wayne Rooney has forced saves from goalkeepers, while Jordan Henderson showed little clinical edge when he was handed an opportunity against Slovakia. A goal each against Wales aside, finishing from Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy has been off, too, which is surprising.

Harry Kane, the Premier League's first English Golden Boot winner since 2000, has barely had a chance of note. Even accounting for the fact that was placed on corner duty to begin with, it's odd that he hasn't had real sights of goal when England as a whole have had so many.

By not taking chances, England are, in a way, beating themselves. It's what Manchester United, albeit without actually creating the opportunities, did throughout the 2015/16 club season. You can dominate a game as much as you want, but an opponent will nearly always get one clear chance. By failing at one end, you're leaving yourself little to no margin for error at the other.

It's absolutely frustrating when there is a capable team with so much potential to do well. But it's England and England fail, so it's actually normal.

Variety is the spice of life, they say. So whilst England may still ultimately be a bit rubbish, at least we're being treated to something a bit different in the process.You can't be unhappy about that.

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